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December 09, 2008

Top Recipe from A16 Food and Wine

A16
 

by Mollie Chen

Temperatures dipped below 20 degrees this weekend, which immediately got me thinking about soup. It seems as though every place has its own version of a restorative winter one-pot meal. Whenever I visit my grandmother I ask her to make her lion's head stew, which has a rich soy sauce-based broth, huge ginger-laced meatballs, and slippery cellophane noodles. In Mexico, I go for a huge bowl of spicy posole, with plenty of cabbage, radishes, cilantro, and lime mixed into the hominy-and-pork stew. And last year, when my friends and I were in Hanoi during an unseasonably brisk week, the aromatic pho sold at every street corner kept us warm and happy.

Last night I tasted what might be my new favorite cold-weather remedy. Chef Nate Appleman and sommelier Shelley Lindgren, of San Francisco's SPQR and A16 restaurants, were in town to celebrate the publication of their new (and fantastic) cookbook, A16 Food + Wine. They put on a stellar dinner at the James Beard House where the highlight (at least at my table) was Appleman's minestra maritata, a thick and savory soup with bright green ribbons of dandelion greens and rapini, plus fatty shreds of pork and shavings of Parmesan. As soon as I got home I looked up the recipe and found the secret behind the light, yet ultra-rich broth: Appleman begins with two different brodos, one made with Grana Padano rinds and one made with prosciutto trimmings. Brilliant! Use up leftover cheese and meat bits and make a delicious dinner--that's the kind of recession eating that I can sign up for. See the recipe after the break.

Cheese Brodo: This brodo is made from the hard rinds of Grana Padano, but rinds from Parmigiano-Reggiano are another good choice. You can ask for the rinds from both cheeses at counters or shops that sell them grated. Also, whenever you grate any hard sheep's or cow's milk cheese with an unwaxed, natural rind, save the rinds and freeze them. When you have accumulated enough to make a pot of brodo, pull them out, make this broth, and freeze it for future use in such recipes as Ricotta Gnocchi in Brodo with Peas and Minestra Maritata.

Makes 1½ quarts

Ingredients:
2 qt. water
6 oz. Grana Padano rinds
1 bay leaf

Procedure:
Combine the water, rinds, and bay leaf in a pot and bring slowly to a boil over medium-low heat, stirring frequently to ensure that the rinds don't stick to the bottom of the pot and burn. Lower the heat to a simmer and cook, uncovered, stirring infrequently, for 1½ hours, or until the broth has taken on a nutty, creamy flavor.

Strain through a fine-mesh strainer into a clean container and let cool. Cover and store in the refrigerator for up to one week or in the freezer for up to three months.

Prosciutto Brodo: This light-bodied brodo imparts the distinctive, unmistakable flavor of prosciutto to pastas and soups, such as minestra maritata. Ask the clerk at an Italian delicatessen or other specialty store to save prosciutto trimmings (including the skin, which gives the brodo body) and end pieces for you. These are the leftovers that can't be sliced into long strips, and the shop will likely be glad to make a few bucks by selling them. If you cannot find a shopkeeper willing to sell you trimmings and ends, use an 8-ounce hunk of prosciutto to make the broth. You can also add any scraps and ends you might have from cutting salumi at home.

Makes 8 to 9 cups

Ingredients:
8 oz. prosciutto trimmings and ends
3 qt. water

Procedure:
Coarsely chop the prosciutto ends into chunks, removing any plastic hooks or string that came with them. Place the scraps and water in a pot and bring to a boil over medium heat. Lower the heat to a simmer and, using a ladle, skim off the foam that rises to the surface. Simmer slowly, uncovered, for about 2 hours, or until the fat from the prosciutto has melted into the brodo.

Strain through a fine-mesh strainer into a clean container and taste for salt. The broth will be salty, which you must take into consideration when using it in recipes. Let cool completely, cover, and store in the refrigerator for up to one week or in the freezer for up to three months. Before using, bring the broth to a simmer and stir to reincorporate the fat.

Minestra Maritata: This hearty soup--a marriage of meat and greens--is served both as an everyday meal and for special family gatherings. The two broths impart a rich, savory quality that melds with the braised greens. For an even sturdier version of this soup, roast some spicy pork meatballs and add them to the pot a few minutes before serving.

Makes 6 first-course servings or 4 main-course servings

Ingredients:
Kosher salt
4 oz. dandelion greens (½ bunch), coarsely chopped
6 oz. rapini (1 bunch), tough stems removed and coarsely chopped
2 cups cabbage (¼ head), coarsely chopped
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for finishing
2 celery stalks, diced
2 garlic cloves, smashed with the side of a knife
1 bay leaf
¼ tsp. chile flakes, dried
1 oz. pancetta (about ¼ cup), diced
2 cups cheese brodo
1 cup prosciutto brodo

Procedure:
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Coat 2 baking sheets with olive oil.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the dandelion greens and cook for 3 minutes, or until wilted. Scoop out the greens with a wire skimmer and drain well. Add the rapini to the same boiling water and cook for 3 to 5 minutes, or until soft. Scoop out the rapini with the wire skimmer and drain well. Add the cabbage to the same boiling water and cook for about 3 minutes, or until wilted, and then drain well. Set all of the greens aside.

In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the celery, garlic, bay leaf, and chile flakes and sweat, stirring occasionally for about 3 minutes or until the garlic begins to soften. Add the pancetta and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 3 minutes or until it renders its fat and is lightly browned and crisp. Stir in the greens and all of the brodo. Taste for seasoning and cautiously adjust with more salt if needed (the prosciutto brodo contributes a good dose of salt).

Ladle into warmed bowls. Garnish each bowl with a drizzle of olive oil and serve immediately.

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